Atlas Shrugged Part II: Why Can't the Free Market Make This Movie Any Better?

Categories: Film and TV
It's tempting to snipe that the argument of Atlas Shrugged Part II--that the genius of an unregulated free market results in the greatest of all greater goods--is somewhat undone by the chintziness of Atlas Shrugged Part II, because, seriously, if this is the best promotion of itself that the free market can manage, it really would benefit from the help of a Ministry of Culture or something.

Toward the end of the movie, there's a shot meant to evoke the wonder of what unfettered capitalism can accomplish: a sleek railroad suspension bridge arcing high over some gorge in the Colorado Rockies, a glistening archway a-twinkle at the base. But the eye rebels against it. The computer effects are plasticky, clearly superimposed, lacking either photo-realism or matte-painting grandeur. It almost fits the story we've been watching, about what would happen if the "best and brightest" in the public sphere were to stop toiling on behalf of a thieving government and a shiftless public. Here it looks like it's the heads of the special effects field who abandoned the world, and the filmmakers had to settle for whatever they could get whipped up at the genius bar. 

Most of the movie at least looks like a movie, or a least a modestly budgeted TV drama. There's a sheen of muted blues and grays meant to suggest the cities of the future, plus a couple of crane shots, a surprisingly engaging jet chase, more cleavage than you might expect, and committed performances from the leads, especially Samantha Mathis, who's all stricken gumption as one of those 21st-century railroad tycoons you're always hearing about. But it's doubtful any of that is enough to gel-cap the poison pill of Ayn Rand's objectivistism into something easily swallowed by any but the Rand faithful.

Imagine if the elves were leaving Middle Earth just to stick it to those lazy hobbits. Imagine It's a Wonderful Life where it's old man Potter who wished he'd never existed, mainly because he found tax rates and federal regulation too onerous. And imagine that one day he "goes Galt": he up and vanishes but not before putting his Bedford Falls properties to the torch, and then that the rest of the movie is about the dopes he left behind realizing that they can't possibly continue to have a society without him.

In short, the story is a hard sell, and nobody involved has done the imaginative work to apply Rand's steel-and-railroads world to today's of tech and finance. The movie opens with many titans of industry already having left these shores. Then it follows the efforts of three major companies to survive in a post-greatness world. They face a vague economic crisis where gas is $40 a gallon and where the government--represented by men named Mouch and Small, which would strike goddamn Dickens as too on-the-nose--has taken to seizing the patents of innovators, outlawing the firing of employees, and mandating that everyone must get their "fair share" of whatever America's first-class fliers produce.

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Watched part 1 last night. Yawn. Went to see part 2 today. Oh no, new faces on everyone. Double yawn. This could have been a cool series of movies. Will this travesty of Atlas Shrugged continue? B movie at best.


Looks like Jacob doesn't like the movie either.


You tear down this movie because it doesn't live up to what you expect to be "the best argument for free markets", and with expectations like that you are bound to be disappointed. It's just movie. If you want to learn about free markets read Hayek or even Rand's actual book and critique those. Judge this movie as a movie.

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